Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment

WEEE is a term used to cover almost all types of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) that has or could enter the waste stream. Although WEEE is a general term, it can be considered to cover TVs, computers, mobile phones, white goods (e.g. fridges, washing machines, dryers etc.), home entertainment and stereo systems, toys, toasters, kettles – almost any household or business item with circuitry or electrical components with power or battery supply.

According to the European Comission , WEEE is the fastest growing waste stream in the EU, producing 8.3-9.1million tonnes in 2005, growing to 12.3 million tonnes by 2020. The Commission is therefore promoting collection and recycling of WEEE, introducing even respective EU legislation - the WEEE Directive (2002/96/EC). The objective of the WEEE directive is to prevent and minimise WEEE in line with the waste hierarchy principles established in the Waste Framework Directive. Ten categories of WEEE are covered by Annex 1A of the directive, which are shown in the table below, including their quantities:

Year 2012 - stated in tonnes Households Business Total
1. Large households appliances 61.343,0 3.684,0 65.027,0
2. Small households appliances 12.836,0 692,0 13.528,0
3. IT and telecommunication equipment 14.968,0 7.681,0 22.649,0
4. Consumer equipment 13.633,0 1.132,0 14.765,0
5a. Lighting equipement - luminaries 2.102,0 2.058,0 4.160,0
5b. Lighting equipement - light sources 2.102,0 2.058,0 4.160,0
6. Electrical and electronic tools 6.189,0 2.257,0 8.446,0
7. Toys, leisure and sports equipment 3.404,0 112,0 3.516,0
8. Medical devices 85,0 2.586,0 2.671,0
9. Monitoring and control instruments 232,0 2.116,0 2.348,0
10. Automatic dispensers 0,0 477,0 477,0
Total 116.109,0 22.879,0 139.640,0
Source: DPA-System 29-07-2013

Despite WEEE addressing regulations, only one third of electrical and electronic waste in the European Union is reported as separately collected and appropriately treated. This implies that two thirds still go to landfills or to sub- standard treatment sites. WEEE is a complex mixture of materials and components that because of their hazardous content, and if not properly managed, can cause major environmental and health problems. Moreover, the production of modern electronics requires the use of scarce and expensive resources (e.g. around 10% of total gold worldwide is used for their production). At the same time WEEE is source of such valuable materials as ferrous metal, non-ferrous metal and plastics which could be recovered

Presently, the existing EU collection target is 4kg of WEEE per capita, representing about 2 million tonnes per year, out of around 10 million tons of WEEE generated annually in the EU. The final target of the new directive, an ambitious 85 per cent of all WEEE generated, will ensure that in 2020 around 10 million tonnes, or roughly 20kg per capita, will be separately collected in the EU."

Only for IT waste alone, recovery needs to reach a minimum of 75% with component, substance reuse, recycling and material a minimum of 65%, both being based on the average weight of each appliance.